The Island: Unique, Yet Strangely Familiar

The Monastery

The Monastery where most of the action of “The Island” takes place.

Pavel Lungin’s The Island or in Russian: Oстров (2006) is the tale of a Russian holy man named Anatoly (Petyr Mamonov) who works as the stoker at a monastery on an unidentified and barren Northern Russian coast.  The movie begins with Anatoly and his commanding officer Tikhon (younger version played by Aleksei Zelensky) working aboard a Soviet coal barge during World War II.  The Germans capture their ship and give Anatoly two options: either shoot his commander or be shot.  In a fit of cowardice Anatoly shoots Tikhon, who falls overboard.  The Nazis then leave Anatoly to die on a nearby island, but a small cloister of monks rescue him and he lives with them for the remainder of the movie.

Thirty years later Anatoly has converted and still lives with the monks, but does not live in the prescribed monastic lifestyle.  He sleeps in the coal, never bathes, and constantly works with laypeople from around the region – giving prophecies, healing people, and performing exorcisms.  Despite this, his guilty conscience consumes him, driving him nearly to madness and forcing him to row out and pray alone on an abandoned island near the monastery.

While this does not seem like a recipe for excitement: with just a single setting, muted colors, dim lighting, and several middle aged men living together, the film manages to combine an intense psychological drama with a truly inspiring story of faith and forgiveness into a masterpiece of cinema.  Indeed, the film has won several  awards including “Best film” at the 2006 Moscow Premiere festival, “Best film” at the 2007 Chinese Golden Eagle Awards, and “Best picture” at Russia’s most prestigious award ceremony, the Nika Awards in 2007.

Petyr Mamonov

Petyr Mamonov as Father Anatoly

Of course, the film has some highly religious themes and seems to really resonate with Christians of all denominations including this Catholic blogger, The Rad Trad, who praises the film’s portrayal of a “fool for Christ”; however, I believe the film’s brilliance lies in the universality of its message and the outstanding performances of the actors.  Petyr Mamonov (a truly remarkable artist, here is a good article about him) provides a blend of ridiculous humor and serious dialogue in his performance as Father Anatoly, without which the film likely would not have worked at all.  Supporting actors include Viktor Sukhorukov and Dmitrii Diuzhev, famous for their roles in the Russian gangster films Brother (1997) and Brother 2 (2000).

The Island presents all the ironies of the nominally atheist Soviet state along with those of Christianity in a way which any viewer can understand, and does it all without dragging the plot or getting too preachy.  I highly recommend it even to those who don’t know Russian, its subtle beauty and award winning performances by the actors are well worth seeing for anyone.  Best of all, the film can be found with English subtitles for free on Youtube.

 

 

 

Unter den Linden: Memory Lane or Path to the Future?

News flash: Berlin is old.

The famous TV Tower and World Clock of Alexanderplatz.

The famous TV Tower and World Clock of Alexanderplatz.

Though far from being the oldest city in Europe (or in Germany, for that matter), this capital still has nearly eight hundred years under its belt. And after standing as one of Germany’s most important cities through all of those centuries, it’s no surprise that some of that history is still clearly visible for those who know how to look.

Some of it is spelled out through architecture. There are the museums on the aptly named Museum Island, home to Berlin’s ancestor city of Cölln (not to be confused with Köln, aka Cologne); the oft redesigned city center, Alexanderplatz; and of course, one of Germany’s most famous landmarks, the Brandenburg Gate — which is itself the entry to an equally historic street, Unter den Linden.

The Berlin Wall was unable to escape Berlin’s obsession with street plaques.

There are also the intentional nods to Berlin’s history, whether it’s the numerous Holocaust memorials, the brick path tracing the location of the Berlin Wall, or the survival of the iconic East Berlin Ampelmann in all of his various forms.

Finally, there are the specific reminders from World War II. Even today, seventy years after the fact, many of the cities older buildings are riddled with bullet holes, or bear larger scars from grenades and bomb strikes. Some of the lesser damage remains untouched as a rough, bullet-riddled facade. In other places, bright new brick, half-finished detailing, and poorly disguised plaster patch-ups stand as stark reminders. And in yet others, Berliners have apparently decided their city is best repaired with Legos.

But even when surrounded by so much of it, are today’s Berliners actually that focused on history?

With it’s status as “the most hipster city in Europe,” plus its vivid nightlife and a strong Jugendkultur (youth culture), the answer appears to be no. In fact, as is the case across the country, most Germans are more interested in the reality of today than they are with the bullet holes of yesterday. It’s a subject that doesn’t appear often in the media — and that lack of media representation is telling enough by itself.

When Berlin’s architectural history does appear on the newsreel, it seems to be more focused on opposition to modern reconstruction of war damage. Reports from Der Spiegel, for example, admittedly describe a populace who are concerned with losing the history, but simply because reconstruction is expensive, disruptive, and in many cases, not really all that necessary anyway.

Even the city of Berlin itself describes itself as an entity which is mostly viewed as having combined the old with the new, with very little time for reminiscing on history. With today’s political and economic environment, Berlin in particular has bigger things for its media culture to focus on. Instead, the city has become a European landmark whose citizens walk among reminders of their past, while keeping their eyes firmly fixed on their future.

So even with all of that history quite literally standing around, there’s really only one type of media that pays any attention to it — and most of those travel blogs aren’t being written by Germans.

Thrills and Chills: Trespassing in Berlin

(photo: Spudnik)

There’s an innate rush many people experience from going somewhere forbidden. Maybe it’s the display of autonomy that gives us a feeling of freedom, or perhaps it’s the curiosity of what the repercussions could be. Whatever it is, it’s what drives us forward even when the sign warns, “KEEP OUT.”

In Berlin, finding places to procure the trespassing rush is about as easy as finding other drugs, and it’s taking more than fences, fines, and fake security guards to stop the growing popularity of sneaking into the city’s many abandoned areas. Blogs such as Berlin Du Bist Wunderbar (in German) and Abandoned Berlin have spread the trend into the blogosphere, and they detail everything from the not-so-appealing sights of dirt and destruction to the nitty-gritty on how to get into the most fascinating, creepy, and sometimes dangerous places without getting caught.

Spreepark 2013 Fto-9239

Spreepark is just one of Berlin’s many thrilling abandoned areas. (photo: Spudnik)

I referred to Abandoned Berlin (which made the list of Berlin’s best blogs on greatest-berlin.de) to sneak into the remains of the former East German amusement park, Spreepark, which is hidden behind the forest along the river Spree. After climbing the fence and trekking through some trees, a friend and I began to see the eerie remnants of roller-coasters and a giant Riesenrad (Ferris wheel).  When we heard the creaking of steel as the wind gave the Ferris wheel a push, my more squeamish friend (I swear it was her, not me), decided she was not too keen on going further into the park. I, being the fearless adventure-seeker I am, had to see what else lied ahead. We followed the roller-coaster tracks which lead right through a mossy pond, and both of us knew it was picture time. What we didn’t know, was that a security guard was waiting on the other side of that pond, and as soon as we finished Instagraming the magic moment, the voice of a rather annoyed man called out, in English, “Hey! No trespassing! I call police! 150 euro!” Standing on wet tracks in the middle of a pond, we felt a little helpless. But, as I had read on Abandoned Berlin, the “security guard” at Spreepark was no law officer, and I hoped to God he’d just kick us out at most.

IMG_1250

Myself, seconds before the run-in with “Security”

When he took us through the park to the tall white fence and told us to “just climb over that,” I figured this guy wasn’t the most legitimate authority, but already having had a good time there and having nothing on us but a fifth of gin, we weren’t in the mood to try to haggle with him. Outside the fence, we saw another group of young people who had suffered the same fate, but we all laughed and were glad we made it out unscathed.

So, while some people go to Görlitzer Park with 10 euros, some papers, and a dream, others get their kicks from Berlin’s rich history and the ruins of times gone by. Be sure to check out Abandoned Berlin’s first-hand accounts of exploring everything from the 1936 Olympic Village to the US/UK spy tower (Teufelsberg, below) to the old Iraqi Embassy. And if you plan on visiting one of these places, don’t miss the info on the danger and difficulty of each location, as well as the appropriate drink mixes you’ll need for the adventure.

SAM_1128

Bier anyone? A taste of German breweries

Everyone knows that beer is very much a cultural tradition in Germany.  So much that it has even become a way of life for some. However, what many do not think about is how German breweries played a large part in developing this beer phenomenon.

This intrigued me and I decided to dive into the world of German breweries to find out more.  I was not only interested in the breweries themselves, but also in finding culturally comparable American beers. Here, I will take you on a tour of a few of Germany’s finest breweries and their American counterparts.

1. Becks Brewery

If you’re a fan of German beer, then undoubtedly you have heard of Becks. Becks brewery started brewing their first beers in 1875.  It has certainly grown to be a widespread, well-established brand. Becks is the number one exported beer of Germany and is sold in more than 100 countries.

Their most popular product is their pale lager, which instantly made me think of Budweiser from Anheuser-Busch. Budweiser would be the culturally comparable beer in this case. Both Becks’ and Budweiser’s most popular beer are their versions of the pale lager. They are also very similar because of their widespread popularity domestically and internationally (Becks is Germany’s number one exported beer). This Australian ad for Becks below is just one of many examples of their success in foreign markets.

2. Monastery Brewery Andechs

Andechs is the pinnacle of German brewing history. Located on the Holy Mountain in Bavaria, this brewery has an interesting background. Andechs was originally a monastery  dating back to the early 12th century. However, it was not until 1730 that the monks drilled a vault into the mountainside to brew beer. The very same vault is still in use, slightly updated of course.  You can see some of the incredible art featured in Andechs in this video, only reaffirming the incredible sense of history that Andechs has.  I imagine one would only be able to smell two things on Bavaria’s Holy Mountain, beer and history. I would call Andechs the Sam Adams of America. Sam Adams has managed to attain the stigma of pure American patriotism and Andechs certainly has been soaking in the culture around it since the 12th century.

3. Weihenstephan

The Weihenstephan brewery is the oldest brewery in the world. This is indeed another large reason why Germany has the reputation that it has for its beer. Established no later than 1040, Weihenstephan has today managed to properly modernize while keeping age-old traditions. Today, this brewery produces quite the selection of beer, from dark wheat bear to non-alcoholic beer beverages. Yuengling is the oldest American brewery and the second largest American owned brewery. They started  in 1829 which hardly seems impressive after Weihenstephan. Both companies have managed to keep their traditions while still managing to adapt to the times.

Versailles: The Manga Invasion

Photo by Jaclyn


The Château de Versailles, arguably the most beautiful castle in France, was and still remains a symbol of France at the height of its monarchical power and cultural splendor. Not only did Louis XIV move the political center of France from Paris to Versailles, but he brought some of the best architects and artists of the era (le Vaut, le Nôtre and le Brun, to name a few) to develop a palace fit for a god.

So, what would the Sun King say if he knew there were sculptures of gaudy mushrooms and dreamy blondes being displayed amongst all of his prized possessions?

Since the opening of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s exposition at Versailles on September 14, 2010, there has been a lot of outrage. Many art and high culture critics are upset about Murakami’s use of manga, a popular type of Japanese comics.

According to Le Figaro, the idea of putting contemporary art inspired by mangas alongside the historical and royal finery of Versailles is sacrilegious. Not only is it considered by many a disgrace to the historic and artistic value of its era, but also to France’s current culture and pride.

Jean-Jacques Aillagon, museum director at Versailles, defends Murakami’s exposition on French 2 television show On s’est pas couché by explaining that contemporary art rarely ceases to have a controversial first reaction. The Louvre’s glass pyramids and the Centre Pompidou were originally critiqued with indignation – Now, they are structures with universal success; that have become symbols of French culture and art around the world.

Photos by Jaclyn (1&2) and Baptiste Lafontaine (3)

Aillagon also argues that exhibiting contemporary art along with historical and “high culture” art is stimulating. The art of the old complements the art of the new.

So, what would Louis XIV have to say about Murakami’s exposition at Versailles? Would he be offended by this intrusion of popular culture? Aillagon disagrees. Versailles was intended to be a place for happiness and good living, he says. At the end of his life, Louis XIV believed his palace to be too serious. He told his architects, “Mettez de l’enfance partout” (roughly meaning, put childhood throughout).

Photo by Charles Nouÿrit

NOTE: This isn’t the first time that Versailles has held a controversial exhibition. Be sure to check out contemporary art expositions by Jeff Koons (2008) and Xavier Veilhan (2009).

Adolf Hitler was a soccer coach?

hitler-livesSometimes you have to wonder how it is that people manage to twist around common knowledge that is written in every history textbook and turn it into something ridiculous. Is the educational system at fault?

Recently, a survey was given to 2,000 students in England and the results were shocking. Every 20th student was convinced that Nazi-leader Adolf Hitler was a German soccer coach. Even worse, the same amount of students believed that the Holocaust was a celebration that was held because of the end WWII. Every sixth student was sure that the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz was an Amusement Park and some believed that “Blitz”(air strikes on London) was some sort of clean up attempt after the war was over.

The survey was made shortly before British Rememberance Day, a day in honor of the fallen soldiers of both WWI and WWII. The results were shocking. Not only did 40 percent of the students have the slightest idea what Remembrance day even is; one-fourth of them admitted that they could care less about the soldiers who fought in the World Wars.

ronald_mcdonald_jumping1The only positive thing that came out of the survey was that 70 percent of students admitted that they would like to learn more about the World Wars.

A similar study was conducted in the US in the documentary film Super Size Me. The film attacked corporate America and the way it advertises their items and ideas for kids. The results showed that kids could easily recognize the face of Ronald McDonald. Yet they struggled to realize that the guy in the picture in front of them was Jesus Christ.

According to the PISA 2000 study , the knowledge and skills of German students were consistently below the performance of US students that year. There is some controversy going on about PISA, but it is still a good indicator on how countries are performing academically (US scored around the international average). It is intriguing how the youth of a country that scored so well in the PISA study struggles with common knowledge. It is also puzzling how a country with an educational system that has a reputation of being the oldest and best, scored below the international average. Is the education system in the US flawed or inferior to the German version of it?

There are huge differences between both educational systems. High School education consists of all students attending the same school till they are off to college. Germany has tried this and called it “Gesamtschule.” However, many Germans were opposed to them because they believed it to be too socialistic. That point of view disregards the fact that the quality of high school education depends on the area it is located and whether it is public or private.

wallpaper-altes-gymnasium

Gymnasium in Germany

The traditional German school system divides students at age 10 (after 4th grade) into three groups. Only one of those schools, the Gymnasium, leads to University provided you make it through school and receive the Abitur. The decision on what school you are assigned to, is based on your performance. It is possible to switch over to the Gymnasium in later years, however it is very difficult and rare. On the other hand, getting kicked out of the Gymnasium or repeating a grade is very common. All it takes is one 6 or two 5’s (6 = F; 5 = D) and you have to repeat an entire school year. If at some point in your school career you mess up like that again, you are officially out of the Gymnasium.

There are a lot more possibilities of points at US high schools. Even if you perform poorly at an exam you can still make it up with quizzes and homework. German schools will not give that opportunity and the main focus of students are the exams.

US students have a lot more vacation time than German students. Then again, German school days are usually over by 1 pm, while US school days last until 3 or 4 p.m.

US high schools are perceived to be easy, but it all depends on the student. If they were to take only AP (advanced placement) classes, it might prove to be a lot more challenging than a student taking only regular classes.

It is hard to tell which educational system is superior and they each have their pros and cons. However, this does not make the survey results or the Super Size Me documentary any less shocking.

The Fourth Reich?

gnome

They’re small, organized, but are they out for world domination? I am talking of course, about a new art display in Southern Germany depicting garden gnomes saluting the way Nazi officers used to do during the WWII era.

In an article I found in the Local, an English website about German news and pop-culture, 1,250 fascist garden gnomes found their way to the Bavarian town of Straubing. They were put there by artist, Ottmar Hörl, who put the 15 inch figurines there to

“deal with a serious topic in a not so serious fashion and without accusation.”

There was also a few blogs about Hörl’s exhibit. I found a group blog that surfs the web looking for funny or outrageous stories, pictures and videos.

The saluting gnomes received some negative attention after prosecutors in Nuremberg launched an investigation to determine whether or not the gnomes were breaking the law. At the end of WWII Nazi symbols and salutes were made illegal in Germany. In response to this Hörl was quoted as saying:

“It is a work that is meant to get people to think, to react,” he said. “I want to show that we all have far-right thoughts in our heads.

The choice of garden gnomes as a personification of political protest may seem a strange one for those in the United States, but the gnome is a prominent figure in European folklore and is said to have originated in Thuringia, Germany in the mid-1800’s. There are an estimated 25 million gnomes in Germany, and Der Spiegel reports that Hörl’s characters are part of a larger trend towards more obscene gnomes including suicidal and sexually-explicit sculptures that have required courts to intervene for their removal.

Eventually, prosecutors accepted Hörl’s argument that the figurines were ridiculing the Nazis, and not promoting them. Hörl, who has designed other, less controversial, public art exhibitions and permanent installations, explained he hoped to draw attention to the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe.

The Mayor of Straubing,Hans Lohmeier, said he will have a protective around-the-clock watch on the public exhibit after threats were made on the work. The art work is publicly displayed in the city’s town square

Many people did not like the art and thought it was harmful. Others enjoyed it and understood what Hörl was trying to get at.

Did Hörl go too far with his art? Or is he right on track and allowing Germany to critically reflect on its past?

gn3g4

Sewing for Freedom

Lieber tot als eingesperrt!

berlin wall

Berlin Wall

Translated this means “I’d be rather dead than locked up”. This is what many people in communist East Germany chose to live by before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Thousands of people tried to flee from their own homes because the circumstances in which they found themselves were so bad they resembled prison. Even though some were successful with their escape plans, about 800 people died trying, 136 of them died right by the Berlin Wall.

However, not all the stories from those times ended in tragedy. The story of one family in particular stood out so much, that even Disney decided to turn it into a movie in 1981. They called it Mit dem Wind nach Westen (translation: With the Wind to the West). It tells the story of their spectacular escape from East Germany and just like Walt Disney likes it, it has a happy ending.

Picture of the actual balloon used

Picture of the actual balloon used. Click on picture for more details.

On September 16, 1979 two women, two men and four children crawled out of a metal basket into the unknown. They had been in the air for only 28 minutes, but to them it seemed like an eternity had passed by. The Strelzyk family had crash-landed deep into the woods of Germany and were not completely sure whether they had actually made it out of East Germany. The women and children quickly hid in the bushes, while Peter Strelzyk and his friend Gühnter took a signal flare and explored the surrounding area. They tell their family that if they see the flare it is safe to come out of hiding because they made it to West Germany. After a while, the two men ran into a police officer. When they asked them whether this was West Germany, the officer looked a little puzzled and just replied “Yes, where else… you are in Naila, Bavaria“. They instantly fired the signal flare and the whole family is so happy they break out dancing.

We know the story has a happy ending, but what is really remarkable is how they actually managed to build a hot-air balloon right under the noses of the feared East German Stasi.

The family always worked at night and sometimes during daylight hours. They constantly feared that at any moment the Stasi would knock on their doors, take their children away and punish them severely for their intentions to escape. Since they had already tried to escape with a hot-air balloon once and failed, it was only a matter of time till the police would track them down.

Disney Movie

Disney Movie

The Strelzyk  family invested all their savings in better material  and other stuff needed for the trip, and spent weeks sewing up a bigger and better hot-air balloon. This time they had help, the Wetzel family also had intentions to escape and joined them in their efforts.

At night, they spent almost two hours setting everything up for their escape. Everything was going according to plan, but they made one mistake that almost cost them their lives. They turned up the gas so high, that not only did it run out a lot faster than they had thought, but eventually burned a hole in their balloon at almost 7000 feet. The only reason they lived to tell the tale, is that the balloon they had sown together was so huge that it acted like a parachute. And so they crashed landed in the woods of Bavaria.

Today, they are taking BILD Magazine on the same 8 miles long trip they took 20 years ago in their hot-air balloon. A trip that earned them their freedom and even got them a spot in the movie theaters.

World War II Paparazzi

Click on picture for details about artist

Click on picture for details about artist

It turns out that taking a camera to the battlefields of WWII was quite popular  among the soldiers. Many readers of the einestages section in the German magazine Der Spiegel sent in many of their personal photoalbums that were full of pictures taken during the war.

All the war pictures that you can see on this page and many more can be seen at the official page of einestages. To check the page out click here.

The soldiers in the German Army where not only conquering all of Europe, they were being tourists at the same time. They took all kinds of pictures, from sight seeing to cruel war atrocities. The photo albums that were put together during 1939 and 1945 are a unique source of what World War II was really like.

On the go

On the go

It is amazing how many color pictures where taken back then. Most pictures during the war were black and white, however after 1936 color was introduced and quickly increased in popularity.

Even when they were trying to escape to safety, people took the time to take pictures like the one on here labeled “On the go”. It was taken sometime in 1940, when it was less rare for people to take color pictures.

Taking pictures of executions by the German Army was strictly prohibited after 1941. But some pictures still made it to private picture albums. Most did not directly show the executions, but gave big hints on what had happened on those days. Some pictures even had some writing on them, explaining in more detail what was going on. One of the pictures showed a woman who was being used as a human mine detector.

minegirl

The picture appears to show a peaceful scene of a Russian girl walking around in the water minding her own business. The reality is far from peaceful, at any moment she could fulfill the mission she was sent on and step on a mine, so that the soldiers can pass unharmed.

The photographers had attempted to take out some of the incriminating pictures but still left traces of what had happened. A good example was a picture that was ripped out, but you could still tell that it was a picture of a hung victim.

Did they take them out because of the guilt that the pictures brought with them? Or maybe out of fear that those pictures would get the photographers in trouble? It could also be that they were taken out by future generations that just couldn’t stand the sight of the events that took place during those cruel years. Regardless of the reasons why it took those pictures so long to finally surface to the public, they are sure to leave a lasting impression on those who get to see them.

It seems that the trend of war pictures has not died out yet. Technology has allowed to take this to a whole new level. US soldiers are conveniently taking pictures and making videos with their camera phones and uploading them to the Internet. The content includes everything from explosions and retaliation to average days at the military. US Troops seem to watch juba videos on a regular basis. Juba videos is the website where a lot of those Iraq war pictures and videos get uploaded. Some soldiers even post replies to the videos with pictures of bullet holes in their helmets and with comments such as “You didn’t get me, I’m still here”.

For more detailed information on Juba and modern war pictures click here.

Funding World War II

And the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film of 2007 goes to…

The Counterfeiters or Die Fälscher

If you are not a fan of foreign language films, this could be your chance to open up to a new type of film genre.

Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, it was the first ever Austrian film to receive an Academy Award.

The film was based on a memoir by Adolf Burger, a Jewish typographer, who was imprisoned in 1942 for forging birth certificates to save Jews from being deported.

The movie is a fictitious account of the Nazi plan, Operation Bernhard, which was designed to flood the British Economy with counterfeited British bank notes.

The movie is based on the actual life of, Salomon Smolianoff, a Russian counterfeiter, who survived the Holocaust and was a part of Operation Bernhard. During the counterfeit operation Burger befriended Smolianoff and later based his memoirs on their time working for the Nazis. For the film, the character was renamed Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch and was played by Austrian actor, Karl Markovics.

Opening up to new movies, especially foreign films is a great way to learn about another culture. It is very interesting to watch a movie about the Holocaust made from the accounts of real people. How are American Holocaust films different from European directed and acted films? To me the film seems more real and draws the viewer in more. This movie delivers on all levels and it can be enjoyed by anyone, even someone who prefers a more Hollywood action packed movie.

The film shows the internal struggle of a man who wants to save his own life, but knows that by doing so he is hurting others. For Sorowitsch, he knows by helping to produce the false bills he is aiding the Nazis, but by complying with their demands he can stay alive.

Including the Academy Awards, the film has won other awards in such venues as the Berlin Film Festival and the German Film Awards.

It is really refreshing to watch a movie that is simple and at the same time larger than life. Exploring European films is very exciting, and it is always fun to get away from the same old Hollywood movies

Interview with Adolf Burger

Schwarzfahrer aka The Black Rider

German Director, Pepe Danquart, made a short film in 1993 about racism in Germany. The film went on to win an academy award in 1994 for best short film.

The short movie, Schwarzfahrer, is a play on the German word meaning fare dodger and that the man on the train is a black rider. In the film a black man boards a train and sits next to an old lady who verbally badgers him while people on the train sit and say nothing. The end of the film has a humorous twist, and allows the viewer to reflect on what the message of the film is. The film is highlighting the racism problem in Germany.

After WWII Germany brought over workers from other countries (mainly Turkey) as Gastarbeiter, literally meaning guest workers. Many of the workers remained in Germany, even though they were only supposed to stay there temporarily. Some Germans felt these immigrants were taking jobs away from German citizens. This parallels a to what some perceive as a similar problem in the United States, with Mexicans taking away jobs from American workers.

I have seen the film a few times, and each time I can relate it to the racism I have seen in the United States. However, I was unfamiliar with racism in Germany and never witnessed it myself.

That changed this past spring when I was in Munich for Easter, and stayed with a man who was half Algerian and half German. He said he has his public transportation ticket and his bag checked at least once a week because he doesn’t look German. That same day he told me this, both of our metro tickets were checked by an undercover police officer. No one else in our compartment was checked and I was in disbelief at what just took place.

Is racism a problem in the United States, Germany or another country? What will it take to stop racism? Can it be stopped?

Take a look at Danquart’s film and see if the film still is true today, 16 years later.